5 Lessons I have learnt from trying to become a graphic designer.

  1. BE A NIGHTCLUB QUEUE. When you’re starting out in graphic design, I have found you need to make your Instagram/Behance/Portfolio look like a nightclub queue. WHY? Because no one wants to pay an entry fee to go in to a dead looking club. If people are queueing, it seems worth waiting for and paying an entry fee. MAKE YOURSELF LOOK BUSY. If you look like you’re worth hiring to a potential paying customer, you will eventually.
  1. DO FREE WORK TO GET PAID WORK. I have found that building a portfolio has been easy. With Briefbox, and Good Brief, there are plenty of ideas to make, and tonnes of advice online. The trouble is doing work for real clients. No one wants to pay you if you have no experience, so do work for free for people to get face to face client experience. I have found that if you do a good job for people, you are then recommended by them. BOOM. This which leads to PAID WORK. Do a lot of work for friends/family to grow a strong portfolio, and the paid work will come.

3. GRAPHIC DESIGN IS AS MUCH ABOUT MARKETING AS IT IS ABOUT DESIGN. This has been a difficult pill to swallow for me but after reading Austin Kleon’s simply banging book, ‘Show Your Work,’ you need to put yourself out there. I started a blog, made an online portfolio and started an Instagram account making 3 posts a week. It is exhausting putting yourself out there as well as practicing graphic design, but no one will hire you if they don’t know you exist.

Another way of putting it is:

4. TALK ABOUT MONEY BEFORE DOING WORK FOR PAYING CLIENTS. When you’ve got over the friends and family awkwardness, you will get paying clients. As Chris Do says, talk about money before doing the work and arrange a payment plan ie. Recieve half of the agreed payment before starting work, and the next half after the work is done. It is hard to ask for money after the work is done, and a down-payment means the client is committed to the cause and paying you.

Talk about money before working for paying clients

5. TRY OUT DIFFERENT STYLES OF DESIGN. When you’re trying to be a graphic designer, I’ve found it’s hard to try and find a niche. Everyone is always banging on about niches which makes sense – it goes back to point 3 about making sure you’re known for being a graphic designer. If you pump out consistent logos, you will become known for doing logos. However, I advocate trying out styles of design, colours, techniques etc. Steve Raboin warns that for the first year of being a graphic designer, you will feel that everything you make is shit. So why not try out as much as possible in that year without narrowing yourself too early trying to find your niche?!

You will find your niche along the way as you develop your style, and work out what you like and dislike to design, make and create. Stop focussing on IG algorithms, trends and trying to find and niche, and focus on what you want to make, and getting good at it.

Anyway, rant over. Hope that helps.

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